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“It’s a wonderful age,” a teacher assures high school bad girl Ana in the numerically titled 3, just after she’s threatened with expulsion, and before she receives a traditional birthday dunking in raw eggs. Uruguayan filmmaker Pablo Stoll Ward, who found early festival appreciation with the offbeat local comedies 25 Watts and Whisky co-directed with the late Juan Pablo Rebella, flounders around for an effective tone between comedy and drama in his first solo effort.
Though his pedigree will give it a boot up in Latin America, this bland and not very funny film about the usual dysfunctional middle-class family rarely hits the outrageous notes to which it aspires, and will remain a small fest title abroad.
There’s something unsettling about the way Ana (Anaclara Ferreyra Palfy) stares into the camera with a brazen cat-like smile, which could be the prelude to anything from cutting class to seducing the house painter. At home she watches reruns of a soap called Chesterfield Girls in bed with mom Graciela (Sara Bessio), an attractive but lonely divorcée whose jolly ex, the dentist Rodolfo (Humberto De Vargas), isn’t happy with his new wife.
It takes a good while to figure out where the film is going, as the focus shifts from mother to daughter to ex-husband. Step by step, Rodolfo angles to get back into the household, tidying the bathroom, fixing the plumbing and finally bringing in the redecorators, as Graciela looks on coldly. While he starts sleeping on the living room couch, she scores a point when she steps out with a nice guy who looks a lot like him, only smarter. Their romance, which blossoms in a hospital while they wait for relatives to die, is almost as trite and uninvolving as Rodolfo’s obsession with house plants. Even Ana’s unpredictable behavior begins to be easily foreseeable. A compulsive liar, thief and general hussy in a provocative schoolgirl uniform, she remains an opaque character to the end. The comic elements of her character are undermined by the uneasy feeling she doesn’t really know what she’s doing and could get hurt.
One novel idea is the blending together of apartments – Ana’s, Rodolfo’s, the dying aunt’s – to emphasize the similarity of everyone’s lives, though the space gets confusing at times.
Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 21, 2012.
Production companies: Epicentre, Control Z films in association with Pandora Filmproduktion, Rizoma Films, Kinè
Cast: Humberto de Vargas, Sara Bessio, Anaclara Ferreyra Palfy, Néstor Guzzini, Matías Ganz, Carolina Centurión, Inés Bortagaray
Director: Pablo Stoll Ward
Screenwriters: Gonzalo Delgado Galiana, Pablo Stoll
Producers: Christoph Friedel, Natacha Cervi, Hernán Musaluppi, Florencia Larrea
Executive producers: Fernando Epstein, Agustina Chiarino
Director of photography: Barbara Alvarez
Art Director: Gonzalo Delgado Galiana
Costumes: Emilia Carlevaro
Editor: Fernando Epstein, Pablo Stoll
Music: Sebastian del Muro Eiras, Reverb
Sales Agent: Wide Management
No rating, 119 minutes.
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